LLANDUDNO, Wales, July 11 (UPI) -- Solar scientists, armed with the best data yet regarding the activities of the sun, say the Earth is headed for a "mini ice age" in just 15 years -- something that hasn't happened for three centuries.
Professor Valentina Zharkova, of the University of Northumbria, presented the findings at the National Astronomy Meeting in Wales this week, Britain's Independent reported Saturday.
Researchers, saying they understand solar cycles better than ever, predict that the sun's normal activity will decrease by 60 percent around 2030 -- triggering the "mini ice age" that could last for a decade. The last time the Earth was hit by such a lull in solar activity happened 300 years ago, during the Maunder Minimum, which lasted from 1645 to 1715.
Scientists say there are magnetic waves in the sun's interior that fluctuate between the body's northern and southern hemispheres, resulting in various solar conditions over a period of 10 to 12 years. Based on that data, researchers say they are now better able to anticipate the sun's activity -- which has led to the Zharkova team's prediction.
"Combining both [magnetic] waves together and comparing to real data for the current solar cycle, we found that our predictions showed an accuracy of 97 percent," Zharkova said.
If the "mini ice age" does indeed arrive, scientists say it will be accompanied by bitter cold winters -- frigid enough to cause rivers, like the Thames in London, to freeze over.